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day and night his eyes were turned toward the gates which were so strangely shut against him; he went "up and knocked. None came to open them. He was depressed, and he exclaimed, 'Oh, if the Lord would but open a way for me to return and labour in France!' Suddenly there was a prospect that his greatest wishes would be realized.
On the day of a grand reception at court, the two sons of Prince Robert de la Marche came to pay their respects to the king's sister. Margaret, ever intent on winning souls, said to Roussel, her eyes indicating the persons meant:
'Speak to those two young princes; seize, I pray, this opportunity of advancing the cause of Jesus Christ.'
'I will do so,' replied the willing chaplain. He approached the young noblemen, and began to converse about the gospel. They showed no astonishment, but listened with a lively interest. Finding that they were not strangers to the good word, he urged them to extend the truth among their subjects.
They gave their fullest assent to his words, but felt that they were too weak for the task of making known the gospel. Roussel now thought he had found a field for the pining exile, and he said to the young nobles: 'I know of but one man fitted for such a great work; he is William Farel. Christ has given him an extraordinary talent for making known the riches of His glory. Invite him.'
'We desire it still more than you,' said the young princes. 'Our father and we will open our arms to him. He shall be to us as a son, a brother, and a father. Let him fear nothing; he shall live with us; yes, in our own palace. All whom he will meet there are the friends of Jesus Christ. We ourselves will be there to receive him. Only bid him make haste; let him come before next Lent.'
'I promise you that he shall,' replied Roussel; and he began to think how he should lay all this before Farel. Toussaint wrote, and added his entreaties: 'Never has any news caused me more joy; hasten thither as fast as you can.'
Thus was a plan laid for Farel to come into almost the centre of France. So confident were the young princes of his coming, that they undertook to set up a printing establishment, in order that he might circulate the truth by means of the press, not only in La Marche, but throughout the kingdom.
'Farel would have been the man fitted for this work,' says D'Aubigne'. 'He was one of those whose simple, serious, earnest tones carry away the masses. His voice of thunder made his hearers tremble. The strength of his convictions created faith in their souls; the fervour of his prayers raised them to heaven. When they listened to him, " they felt," as Calvin says, " not merely a few light stings, but they were wounded and pierced to the heart; and hypocrisy was dragged from those wonderful and more than tortuous hiding-places which lie deep in the heart of man." He pulled down and built up with equal energy. He was not only a minister of the word; he was a bishop also. He was able to discern the young men who were fitted to wield the weapons of the gospel, and to direct them in the great war of the age. Farel never attacked a place, however difficult of access, which he did not take. Such was the man then called into France, and who seemed destined to be her reformer.' The letters of Roussel and Toussaint were on the way; but already Farel had another invitation before him. Let us see whence it came.
On the shield of an ancient Swiss city was the figure of a bear,1 and the wits called its people the 'bears of Berne.' It was the centre of a little republic, whose freemen caught the spirit of the great awakening, and as early as 1518 held out attractions to literary men. Berne, whose soldiers had won renown, must have its scholars as well as Basle and Zurich. The next year appeared among them a young man of twenty-one, named Berthold Haller, who had been a fellow-student with Melancthon. Haller won the hearts of the people, and soon became the preacher of the cathedral. The gospel which Zwingle was teaching came to the city, and Haller examined it, believed, and began to declare it. But the 'bears' were not lambs, willing to be led in the new pastures of truth, without making enough resistance to discourage the meek and timid shepherd. He wished to see Zwingle and talk to him as a son to a father. So, taking with him his burden of trials, he paid a visit to Zurich. He was kindly received by this 'first of the reformers,' whose gentleness imparted a charm to his manners. Zwingle was pleased with this young man of about twenty-eight years, tall,
1 The old Germans called a bear a 'bern,' and for centuries he has been the favourite of all pets in that city. His image is still upon sign-posts, fountains, and public buildings. Living specimens were kept in the town at the public expense; and when the French army, in 1798, carried the bears captive to the gardens of Paris, the people lamented their loss. But when the ancient order of things was restored, one of the first cares of the citizens was to replace their ancient pensioners, and secure for them an endowment. The visitor who does not pay his respects to the bears may expect to be regarded as very disrespectful by the Bernese. They are 'the lions' ^of the city.—Murray's Handbook for Switzerland.
artless, candid, and diffident, but who gave fair promise of being the reformer of Berne.
'My soul is overwhelmed,' said Haller one day; 'I cannot support such unjust treatment. I am determined to resign my pulpit and retire to Basle, to employ myself entirely, in Wittembach's society, with the study of sacred learning.' This desire for study was strong in the first reformers.
'Alas!' replied Zwingle, 'and I too feel discouragement creep over me, when I see myself unjustly assailed; but Christ awakens my conscience by the terrible stimulus of his terrors and promises. He alarms me by saying, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me before men, of him shall I be ashamed before my Father." He restores me to tranquillity by adding, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him also will I confess before my Father." Oh, my dear Berthold, take courage! Our names are written in imperishable characters in the annals of the citizens on high. I am ready to die for Christ. Oh that your fierce bears would hear the gospel! Then they would grow tame. But you must undertake this duty with great gentleness, lest they should turn round furiously and rend you in pieces.'
Haller took courage, went home, laboured gently, and then wrote to his friend, 'My soul has awakened from its slumber. I must preach the gospel. Jesus Christ must be restored to this city, whence He has been exiled so long.' 'The timid young preacher rushed,' as Zwingle described it, 'into the midst of the savage bears, who, grinding their teeth, sought to devour him.'
The cause gained strength as the years passed, and Haller declared, in confident hope, 'Unless God's anger be turned against us, it is not possible for the word of God to be banished from the city, for the Bernese are hungering after it.'
The Bernese had certain districts in Roman Switzerland where the people spoke the French language, and a French missionary was needed. Farel was the man to carry the gospel into these new regions, and Haller gave him the most urgent invitation. What should Farel do? France was shut; no one opened its gates; not a word yet from thence inviting him to return. France had rejected him. Switzerland was open; a voice was calling him thither. It must be the voice of God, who took Paul away from the Asia in which he proposed to labour, and sent him over into Macedonia. He could not hesitate. He left Strasburg on foot in December, grieved as he cast an eye toward his native land that now disowned her son, but cheered as the prospects of success in new regions rose upon his vision. He was on the road when the messenger of Toussaint and Roussel arrived at Strasburg. It was too late. His friends sent the letters on to Berne; but even there they did not overtake him. In his zeal he had made haste to enter upon his new field. In a little Alpine village he had fully settled down, when he received the invitation of the lords of La March e. Might he not even then return? Should he put aside the call of the lords of Berne, and the call of God's providence, and obey the voice of the young princes? In his soul there was a fierce struggle. He was only a lowly schoolmaster in a little village of the Alps. In France he might be a reformer in a great field, using princes in pushing on the good work; perhaps enlisting the king, and making the throne, the court, the capital, a centre of power on the side of the gospel. If this invitation had only reached him at Strasburg! But no; it was too late.